Hugh Clifford Chadderton
Born: May 9, 1919 (Fort William, Ontario)
Died: November 30, 2013 (Ottawa)
For more than six decades, gentlemanly Cliff Chadderton was the face of The War Amps in Canada. He appeared on television in commercials and in interviews, a tireless advocate for injured veterans, as well as for children who had lost limbs, having established the acclaimed Child Amputee (Champ) Program. War Amps keychains remain an ordinary daily reminder of the work done by the organization.
A fierce advocate for soldiers, Chadderton led a campaign to gain compensation for Canada’s Hong Kong veterans, who had endured 44 months of forced labour at the hands of the Japanese. He also represented veterans in protests against such documentaries as “The Valour and the Horror” and “The Kid Who Couldn’t Miss.”
Though often profiled, it was rarely noted Chadderton had been a prominent hockey player in Winnipeg before the war.
As a teenager, Chadderton appeared in Winnipeg Free Press stories as a “brilliant Newsie centre” for the daily newspaper’s sponsored team in the Inter-City Mercantile Hockey League in 1937. He then played defence for the junior Winnipeg Falcon-Rangers in 1938-39, recording four goals and three assists in 20 games. Away from the arena, he became a reporter, first for the Free Press and later for Canadian Press.
Chadderton enlisted with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles on October 15, 1939, just five weeks after Canada declared war. At night, he traded his military uniform for a hockey sweater, guarding the blue-line for the Winnipeg Rifles and received notice from his old newspaper as a “hell of a good player.” He scored six goals in nine games.
As a sergeant, he went overseas for the first time in September, 1941, eager and ready to play hockey even as they prepared to fight. “We spent $1,000 on equipment last year and brought it all with us,” he said, “so I’m glad we’ll get a chance to use it.”
Fourteen months later, now a lieutenant, Chadderton was back in Manitoba, where he played on an Army team coached by Joe Mathewson in the Services’ Senior Hockey League. Chadderton played on a line with Johnny Horek and Jim McFadden, a Belfast-born skater who would go on to become the NHL’s rookie of the year in 1948.
After D-Day, Chadderton, by then a captain, was fighting in the Battle of the Scheldt, a difficult campaign against entrenched German troops along an estaury flanking the Duth and Belgian frontier. He was in a precarious beachhead on the enemy side of the Leopold Canal in Belgium when his war came to a sudden end on Oct. 10, 1944.
“I was in a trench and a German came and was above me and holding onto a hand grenade. And he dropped it,” Chadderton told The Memory Project, which is dedicated to preserving veterans’ stories. “And I grabbed it and … the grenade went off in my hand. But I was in the act of throwing it, so I (only) ended up with a paralyzed hand.
“We were severely shelled by the German 88 gun and that ended my war. My troops dug me out and, God bless them, and we got a punt that you’d use in the marshes and they put me in the road with rifles as paddles. They rode me across the canal to our side and then I was picked up by the stretcher bearers.”
In surgery, Chadderton had his right foot amputated behind the lines. “I left my leg in that beautiful country of the Netherlands,” he would say years later. His hockey days were over. He sailed back to Canada aboard the Lady Nelson, returning to Winnipeg just before Christmas.
Later, Chadderton took up other sports, such as golf, competing in Dominion War Amputations golf tournaments, finishing tied for fourth in 1967. He took up downhill skiing at age 69.
Taking as his motto, “It’s what’s left that counts,” Chadderton declared amputees should remain active. His work on the Champ campaign for child amputees also led to his advocacy on behalf of Thalidomide victims, for whom he launched a task force in 1987 to gain compensation from the Canadian government.
Chadderton, who died of pneumonia at the Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre in Ottawa, his home for three years, had suffered a stroke at age 90, which led to his retirement. He had been a senior executive of The War Amps for more than 40 years after becoming chief executive officer in 1965.
His honours were many, including being invested as a companion to the Order of Canada. France named him a knight in its Legion of Honour and he received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal. He took particular pride in being named to the Terry Fox Hall of Fame.